Wednesday, June 26, 2013







While Iraq struggles politically, with violence and everything else, the biggest interest the country seems to generate from the world outside is this June 12th YouTube video of a dog in Iraq burying a dead puppy.  Perhaps that makes some larger sense?  Around the world popular videos of pets have them bouncing or whatever, but in violence scarred Iraq a dog buries a dead puppy.  And gets about half-a-million views when the video gets posted online.

Yes,  the violence continues in Iraq, the death toll for the month mounts.  Iraq Body Count. reports 466 deaths for the month of June through yesterday.

The death toll continued to mount today.  Shannon Young (Free Speech Radio News -- link is audio and text) explains, "Three bombing attacks killed more than 30 people across Iraq Tuesday as the security situation in the country descends into another cycle of sectarian violence. The New York Times reports the deadliest attack killed 16 people and wounded more than 50 as Shiites protested insecurity with a highway blockade in the Salahuddin province."   National Iraqi News Agency notes that protesters at a Tuz Khurmatu sit-in were attacked by 1 suicide bomber with "an explosive belt" who took his own life and left many demonstrators dead or injured.  World Bulletin counts 2 suicide bombers and 71 injured.  This evening, NINA reported the final toll from medical and security sources:  27 dead and 80 injured.  All Iraq News states it was one suicide bomber combined with a mortar attack.  AFP informs, "Among the dead were a former deputy provincial governor and his two sons, as well as a former provincial councillor." Alsumaria identifies the former deputy manager as Ahmed Abdul Wahid and note that the vice president of the Turkmen Front, Ali Hashem Mukhtar Oglu,  is the other official who died.   Yasir Ghazi (New York Times)  explains, "Security forces imposed a curfew in Tuz Khurmatu and ordered people to close their shops." Of the demonstration, Xinhua explains:

The Shiite Turkomans were holding a sit-in on a main road outside Tuz-Khurmato protesting the attacks by al-Qaida militants on their Shiite community in the city, which is part of the disputed areas claimed by the Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans.
The Kurds want to incorporate areas at the edges of their current Kurdistan region into their domain, a move fiercely opposed by the Baghdad government.
The Shiite Turkomans also demand the government to help form a special force to protect their minority from the attacks that they believe to be aimed at displacing them from their homes.

DPA adds, "The demonstrators were protesting recent attacks in the city, which has a majority ethnic Turkmen population."

There was other violence as well.  NINA notes an assassination attempt on Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi: "Police told NINA that an improvised explosive device, emplaced on the side of a street in Dawaseh area, downtown Mosul, went off when the Governor's motorcade was passing, wounding four of his guardsmen; but the Governor was not hurt."  In addition to being the Governor of Nineveh, he is also the brother of the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  This wasn't the first attempt on al-Nujaifi's life by a long shot, it wasn't even the first one this year.  From the April 16th snapshot:

Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi is a prominent critic of Nouri al-Maliki.  al-Nujaifi is Sunni, a member of Iraqiya and the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.
Among the politicians targeted by Nouri in the last three years?  Atheel al-Nujaifi.  It wasn't all that long ago that Nouri was demanding that al-Nujaifi resign.  (al-Nujaifi refused.)

And it wasn't even the first attempted assassination of Atheel al-Nujaifi this month.  Prior to today, there had been at least two reported attempts.   June 1st, he was targeted yet again (also a Mosul bombing).  From the June 13th snapshot, "Mainly, they report a Mosul car bombing attack on Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that the assassination attempt claimed the lives of 2 by-standers."

In addition to that assassination attempt,  National Iraqi News Agency notes a bombing hit a bus of pilgrims outside Hilla as they were heading to Karbala leaving 3 dead and fifteen injured, a Baghdad bombing "near an outdoor playground" [sports field] left 4 people dead and fifteen more injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and a third injured,  and 2 Baquba bombings left 6 people dead and twelve injured.   All Iraq News quotes a security source stating, "Unidentified gunmen attack this morning the Mari Church in Ameen neighborhood of southeast Baghdad and injured three policemen in charge of securing the Church."  And Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) reports,  "In Mosul, in the north, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up inside a popular cafe, killing 10 people and wounding 18." Iraqi Spring MC reports that clashes took place in Ramadi between rebels and Nouri's forces.   That's 52 reported deaths and 150 injured.

At their Facebook page, Iraqi Spring MC noted the attack on the protesters.  They've also noted an increase in the mass arrests in the last 48 hours such as in Abu Ghraib -- which was carried out by SWAT forces and the Army's 17th Division.  On the US-trained and equipped SWAT forces, NINA notes: that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya has issued a demand for the dissolution of the SWAT forces as a result of their repeated and barbaric attack on the Iraqi civilians:

The statement said, "Such actions by these force which supposed to keep security and lives of the people, brings to mind a number of questions about the legitimacy of the so-called / SWAT / forces also about the legal and constitutional of these forces , as well as about its link with the government or just a militia and mob," stressing that / Swat / are the same forces that recently committed Hawija massacre without any brought to accountability or to justice or just deterred , according to the statement.
The coalition, held the commander in chief of the armed forces, Nouri al-Maliki full responsibility for what the coalition called a disregard for the lives of citizens, asking al-Maliki to dissolve these forces "unknown origin and legitimacy."

The April 23rd massacre referred to above is what happened when Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces stormed a peaceful sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Among the demands of the protesters?  Release the many detained in prisons and jails who've never been charged with a crime.  Aswat al-Iraq reported today:

The Committee formed to tackle the demonstrators' demands announced here today that more than 7000 detainees were released, including 200 women.

The Committee, headed by deputy premier Hussein Shahristani, added that more than 14.000 residences were acquitted, which were covered with the regulations of Questioning and Justice formalities, as reported in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq today.

Those are Nouri's figures.  They've refused the requests of governors to release lists with names.  So the figures may be accurate or they may be false.  But any country that imprisons people without charges has a government that needs to be replaced.

Let's note another of Nouri's problems, Camp Ashraf residents now in Camp Hurriya.  Saturday, June 15th, the refugees now at Camp Liberty were attacked.  It's past time to get them moved.  Nouri is not protecting them and has no interest in it.  The State Dept issued the following yesterday:

Press Statement

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

June 24, 2013

On June 19 and June 21, two groups of Camp Hurriya residents, 27 in total, were permanently relocated to Albania. This was the third of a series of movements planned under the terms of a generous humanitarian offer by the Government of Albania to accept 210 individuals from Camp Hurriya. The United States thanks Albania for its compassion in this humanitarian endeavor. So far, 71 individuals have relocated to Albania as part of this agreement, and we look forward to additional individuals relocating as soon as possible.
The United States strongly supports the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and the tireless efforts of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler to relocate remaining camp residents outside Iraq. We urge the Mujahedin-e Khalq leadership, and all responsible parties, to ensure full cooperation with the UNHCR relocation process so that future movements occur as expeditiously as possible.
The relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq is a humanitarian mission and vital to their safety and security. The United States renews its call on the Government of Iraq to help ensure the security of the camp in accordance with its December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations. This is a matter of extreme urgency given ongoing threats to the camp. We further renew our call on the Government of Iraq to investigate and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the June 15 rocket attack against the camp.

Yes, it does read a lot like last week's UN statement (that we noted June 22nd).  One key difference?

The United Nations pointed out that there were over 3,000 still needing asylum outside of Iraq.  71 isn't zero but it certainly seems like a larger number than it is when you forget or 'forget' to include that over 3,000 residents are still Camp Liberty waiting for countries to agree to host them.

This does matter.  As the United Nations noted over a year ago:

The current Iraqi government has made it clear that it wants Camp Ashraf shut down and the MeK – which once fought alongside Hussein and is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization – to leave Iraq. Baghdad sees its presence, in a place which is off-limits to the government, as an affront to national sovereignty.

When the Government announced late last-year that it would be closing the camp by 31 December, many feared a repeat of the violence of April 2011, when dozens of Ashraf residents were killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces at the camp. An earlier incident in 2009 cost the lives of at least 10 residents.

Diplomatic Marathon

To prevent a similar outcome, the United Nations initiated intensive diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to extend the deadline for the camp’s closure, which he agreed to do. This provided time and space for a marathon exercise in preventive diplomacy led by Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, who has mediated between the Iraqi government and the group.

“As an impartial actor the United Nations could interact with both parties,” Kobler said.

With support from other governments, including the United States, Kobler was able to bridge the gaps between the two actors and find an agreement that both respects Iraq’s sovereignty and provides the people of Camp Ashraf with a safe and voluntary path to a more hopeful life outside of Iraq.

Since then, the US has taken the MEK off the terrorist list (September 28th).  What hasn't changed is that there's no great rush to welcome the refugees, there appears to be very little work being done on the issue at all outside of the UN.   How many more attacks on Camp Hurriya will it take before the world -- especially the United States government  -- pays attention?

The world can look away, most governments have no obligations in this matter.  It's a little different for the US government.

Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.  As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) has observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

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